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A movie which told the story

Waheeda Rehman was a wonderful actress, one of the most versatile ones in Bollywood. She should always be a pick for the all time top ten of Bollywood. Coming from Telugu films, she was spotted by Guru Dutt who cast her in his film and thus began a creative partnership that gave us many hits. Whether there was more than a professional relationship is irrelevant now since Guru Dutt passed away nearly half a century ago.

Waheeda Rehman made her film debut as a teenager , amazingly with what would today be considered an item number in a Telugu film Rojulu Maraayi . She also acted in another Telugu film Jayasimha and a Tamil film based on Alibaba and the Forty Thieves, Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum which incidentally is the first Colour Tamil film.  Her performances caught the eye of Guru Dutt, who Waheeds Rehman considers her mentor, and suitably impressed, she got the Bollywood lead in his movie CID when she hadn’t yet stepped into her adulthood as Kamini.

For an actress of amazing stature and caliber that Waheeda Rehman blossomed to become, the beginning of her career was very modest in an item song. But her amazing talents couldn’t be but utilized and she performed a number of very memorable roles as well as won 3 Filmfare awards as best actress as well as a National award. She was given a Padma Bhushan as well as a Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award.

While tongues wagged about her alliance with her costars, this role and movie went pretty much unnoticed.

Shagoon was a rather disappointing movie and honestly I didn’t even like the leading man. I actually felt he had rather villainesque looks. The movie is remembered for two amazing songs..

The film had very good music by Mohammad Zahoor Khayyam with Sahir Ludhiyanavi giving meaningful lyrics as usual, creating memorable songs like this duet “Parbaton Ke Pedon Par Shaam” sung by the one and only Rafi saab with Suman Kalyanpur, the amazing singer who should rightfully have got a few thousand more solos than she did, if it hadn’t been for the machinations by the sister duo. Another unforgettable song was sung in a husky, unusual tone. “Tum Apna Ranj-o-gham” is the single most famous song by Jagjit Kaur who married Khayyam.  

The male lead in the movie was Shashi Rekhi who used the screen name Kamaljeet, and continued in the grand old hoary tradition of useless male actors of the 50s thru the 60s. He was pretty much a nonstarter when it came to acting. But he did manage to woo and win over the heart of his leading lady, one of the most sought ladies in India at the time. They married a decade later and stayed happily in Bangalore, till the man’s rather premature demise at the turn of the millennium, when Waheeda returned to her seafront house in Mumbai.

A film which told a story which wasn’t quite noticed by the media those days by the (then much less obtrusive) media.

Have a great Sunday, folks, stay safe as the rains beat a steady drumbeat and make the mercury drop rather noticeably. Stay away from the Chinese

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बस यूँही……..

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The lost age of innocence

I saw this movie in 1972 on Doordarshan Mumbai on the Sunday evening show. Since the name had been announced from Wednesday, my Dad was happy. The name of the movie took him back to his younger days. He sang a few bars of this song. As a teenager I thought that quite amusing but we weren’t quite used to telling our parents such feelings in so many words.

Kismet was a blockbuster movie of the era made by Bombay Talkies. It actually was the first blockbuster of Bollywood and made huge waves for a variety of reasons. It showed, for starters the hero with distinct shades of dark grey, as a pickpocket. Ashok Kumar who had already established himself earlier with Bombay Talkies was cast with Mumtaz Shanti. The movie had a wonderful score by Anil Biswas, who introduced the full chorus for the first time in Bollywood. This wonderful song was sung as a duet between Ashok Kumar and Amirbai Karnataki, one of the leading playback singers of the era . The score was a rage of the time and undoubtedly contributed to a massive collection at the box office. The movie which cost less than 2 Lakhs to make, grossed 1.1 Cr , an unheard of sum those days. Remember the movie was made in 1943!!

In the early 40s, Devika Rani invited Anil Biswas to join Bombay Talkies, where he gave music to many a movie, including this,  the first true superhit  Gyan Mukherjee’s Kismet (made during WWII years and which had a very unsubtle patriotic subtext, which starred Ashok Kumar and Mumtaz Shanti. The movie is remembered for the song, ‘Papihaare’, sung by his own  sister Parul Ghosh, (the wife of Pannalal Ghosh, the legendary flautist)  the patriotic hit, ‘Door hato ai duniyaa waalo’ (for which poor Pradeep, the lyricist had to go underground to evade certain arrest and torture), and this song ‘Dheere dheere aare badal, mera bulbul so raha hai, shorgul na macha’ . Pradeep’s patriotic song got past the censors with a thinly veiled subterfuge of using a reference to the Japanese and Germans purely as a subterfuge. But of course someone squealed on him and got him into hot beverages.

I loved the way the song is picturized with an impish Ashok Kumar tying a necklace around the neck of Mumtaz Shanti who has somehow fallen asleep sitting up. Amazing that no one expected her to wake up during this…

The movie also had some bold firsts like introducing a pregnancy out of wedlock.

Even today, watching the movie nearly 80 years after it was first released, one finds it relevant in so many ways. Gyan Mukherjee the director and Ashok Kumar the leading man achieved enormous fame. So much so that mobs stopped Ashok Kumar’s car on the streets. The first superstar to face this degree of adulation.

Stay safe folks, stay healthy, happy and away from all things from the empire of evil. Take the jab

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बस यूँही……..

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गुरुपौर्णिमा के अवसर पर

मेरे जीवन के सर्वप्रथम गुरु से आजतक मिले सारे गुरुओंके प्रति मेरी असीम कृतज्ञता…
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आज गुरुपूर्णिमा है। आप सभी से मुझे मेरी बाकी ज़िन्दगी में भी ऐसा ही अमूल्य ज्ञान मिलता रहे यही आप सभीसे प्रार्थना।

गुरु चरणों में –

चरन धूर निज सिर धरो, सरन गुरु की लेय,
तीन लोक की सम्पदा, सहज ही में गुरु देय।
सहज ही में गुरु देय चित्त में हर्ष घनेरा,
शिवदीन मिले फल मोक्ष, हटे अज्ञान अँधेरा।
ज्ञान भक्ति गुरु से मिले, मिले न दूजी ठौर,
याते गुरु गोविन्द भज, होकर प्रेम विभोर।
राम गुण गायरे।।

और न कोई दे सके, ज्ञान भक्ति गुरु देय,
शिवदीन धन्य दाता गुरु, बदले ना कछु लेय।
बदले ना कछु लेय कीजिये गुरु की सेवा,
जन्मा जन्म बहार, गुरु देवन के देवा।
गुरु समान तिहूँ लोक में,ना कोई दानी जान,
गुरु शरण शरणागति, राखिहैं गुरु भगवान।
राम गुण गायरे।।

समरथ गुरु गोविन्दजी, और ना समरथ कोय,
इक पल में, पल पलक में, ज्ञान दीप दें जोय।
ज्ञान दीप दें जोय भक्ति वर दायक गुरुवर,
गुरु समुद्र भगवन, सत्य गुरु मानसरोवर।
शिवदीन रटे गुरु नाम है, गुरुवर गुण की खानि,
गुरु चन्दा सम सीतल, तेज भानु सम जानि।
राम गुण गायरे।।

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A passionate outpouring of love

Suraiya was the last of the singing stars in Bollywood. She had a good screen presence, very expressive, prominent eyes and emoted better than some of her peers. She had a unique (if slightly nasal) singing voice and has several unforgettable roles and scores of songs to her credit.

Sadly the demons in her unsuccessful love life got to her and she abruptly ended her (singing & acting) career, much to the regret of the legions of her loyal (& smitten) fans. She became a Fedora-esque recluse after that and rarely ventured out of her Marine Drive abode.

I feel she should have been referred to as the first tragedienne in Bollywood, before Meena Kumari. Suraiya had the added dimension of singing to her quiver of arrows

Shama, the early 60s movie directed by Lekhraj Bhakri, had Nimmi (in the eponymous sacrificing role), Suraiya and Vijay Dutt as the poet from a Nawabi family who has nothing better to do than write poetry and be the object of undying love from the 2 beauties.

An excessively sentimental, somewhat illogical and melodramatic story (typical of Bollywood) of an indolent poet (the word glorifies being a lazy bum, doesn’t it?) played by Vijay Dutt , his glamorous wife Suraiya and the suffering “other girl” in love with him, portrayed by Nimmi would kinda sum up the movie. “Shama” does little to please the heart of the cinema-going crowd and the pain and continuous distress of Nimmi seems to be highly infectious, for the audience, too, suffers by watching the picture, the joke’s on them, they have paid to be tortured.

What a pity that Kaifi Azmi’s beautiful poems are not backed by the musical compositions from an otherwise good music director, Ghulam Mohammad. The exception is the three Suraiya solos.

The movie was truly saved by the magnificent acting. Nimmi is convincing in her portrayal of the sacrificing hapless orphan who is head over heels in love with the sloth of a poet, Vijay Dutt, who looks handsome and sometimes similar to Guru Dutt in similar roles.

Suraiya is the star of the movie which was meant to be a comeback vehicle for her. She is impressive in her acting and singing and makes the film a type of personal triumph. In fact, if “Shama” is to be remembered at all, it will be because of Suraiya. https://youtu.be/-P8YaI1BoGw

The song is unique as it uses Suraiya’s solo singing for both the actresses. I don’t know if a duet with a different voice for Nimmi would have sounded more convincing on screen. The song by Suraiya is delicious, treacly sweet, and enough to make the most staunchly misogynistic guy flip for the lady. (Here he has a choice, too!!)

Here’s to remembering the last of the singer-actresses that Bollywood had, and arguably the best of the lot.

Stay safe, stay away from the Chinese and stay healthy. Take the vaccine. The presstitutes and imbecile Prince’s efforts to run down our vaccines have been exposed. It took a Gora scientist to tell us the vaccine works and maybe good for life. Enjoy the weekend.

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बस यूँही…….


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Sunset and twilight are always beautiful and to me a wondrous source of amazement. This is Sunset on 22nd July 2021 at Shimla, courtesy Shri Anoop Sood.

मख़फ़ी – छिपा हुआ

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The king of melancholia

Mukesh Chand Mathur would have been 98 today. A singer who was so different from his peers, he remains alive in our hearts and souls despite having passed away way too early just a month into his 53 rd year, while on a concert tour in Detroit, nearly 46 years ago. Although his longest association in Bollywood was with Raj Kapoor, as his vocal doppelgänger, he sang a very large number of soulful songs for so many countless others. His apparently simple style of singing was deceptive, one realised the difficulty in singing effectively like him only after trying to sing like him.

His unique voice epitomised melancholia in Hindi films for over 3 decades. The deep timbre and the nasal quality of his voice was exceedingly well suited for heartbreak songs for many generations of actors, from Raj Kapoor, through Manoj (“Facepalm”) Kumar and down to Rajesh Khanna in Anand. It was also this speciality that held him back from becoming a singer for all types of songs. Even his joyous songs had that underpinning of pathos, of a loneliness that set him apart from his peers, an endearing and unique quality, much like Talat’s patented tremolo, which no one else could ever get into their voices.

A very handsome man, he actually learnt singing much as Ekalavya learnt archery from Dronacharya. A music teacher would come to their home to teach an older sister, and the young Mukesh picked up the nuances sitting in an adjacent room. He left school early and briefly was employed with the PWD. Motilal, the then leading actor in Bollywood, was related to the family and noted Mukesh’s singing in the latter’s sister’s wedding in Delhi and took him under his wings, bringing him to Mumbai and organised singing lessons under a recognised exponent of Hindustani Classical Music. Soon the handsome young man made his Bollywood debut as a singer- actor in Nirdosh. The movie pretty much flopped but his singing was noticed. Motilal saw him struggle for the next few years and told his friend, the legendary composer Anil Biswas who gave Mukesh his first unforgettable break in Bollywood, with Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De…in Pehli Nazar, much against the producer Mazhar Khan’s wishes and vehement protestations. Anilda stuck to his guns and got his young protege to give this immortal, truly timeless classic. Few know that Mukesh also turned film producer and composer later.

His rapid rise as a playback singer in the early 1950s chiefly as Raj Kapoor’s voice notwithstanding, Mukesh was visited by a resurgent acting itch (he had actually come to Mumbai to be a singing star) that would not go away without some scratching. This itch and some poor career decisions arising from it nearly finished his career. For an inexplicably strange reason, he actually signed a non-competing clause with the producers of Mashooqa – a movie in which he played the male lead – resulted in him actually having to walk out of the incomplete Shree 420 after singing just two songs for Raj Kapoor. As a result of this strange and disastrous career move, he was bound hand and foot and was able to sing barely 20 film songs over the next 2 years, two of which were for Anuraag, a film he produced, composed music for and played the lead role in. Unfortunately for Mukesh, Mashooqa (the film for which he almost scuttled his successful singing career) was a failure and Anuraag was stillborn, never seeing the light of the day. Although this career swing (and retrospectively disastrous decision) almost bankrupted him, it was to the enduring relief of all (the music loving fan base, me included) that Mukesh resumed his full-time singing career.

Listen to “Kise Yaad Rakhoon” from Anuraag, the ill fated movie. I wonder why he did not continue composing after this traumatic (but educative) experience. The stories of the period are truly painful, and I have heard some of them from his younger son, Mohnish, who sadly like the father, died much too young.

An amazing melancholic, introspective song that is vintage Mukesh, the clarity of his voice evident in every note. Classical Mukesh through and through that could be the anthem of any person who has been through similar life experiences.

Anuraag had Usha Kiran with Mukesh in the lead and I am sure the movie would have been a great success. The wonderful lyrics are by Kaif Irfani. What a mouthwatering prospect to see two very good looking people in the lead. Mridula, Protima Devi and Uma Devi had significant roles as well.

A truly soulful melody that not too many would have heard, I am sure. I wouldn’t have known too much about it had it not been for Mohnish singing for me in my clinic with the receptionists popping in not believing their ears. You guys left too soon, Mohnish and Mukeshji. Both of you could have surely given so much to all of us and those nearest to you.

I am sure I will feast on Mukesh Melodies through the day today.

Have fun, folks, stay safe and away from the Chinese products including the malicious Virus . Stay safe, stay healthy and happy.

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बस यूँही…….

Far from the maddening crowd…

One realizes that silence is not just the absence of sound. That silence grows on me like a living entity. Addicting and blissful

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Remembering a garrulous genius

Sajjad Hussain died today 26 years ago, in relative oblivion, forgotten by a heartless and cold industry that chose to focus on the warts rather than the beauty. There was a tribute paid to him on AIR Vividh Bharati today morning. As I was thinking about the man, I was reminded of his being referred to by none other than Lata Mangeshkar as her “Favourite composer” and “one she found most difficult to work with“. A man who was in the industry for nearly a third of a century, in the golden period of music, had loads of talent and pure class, but got less than 20 movies in the period. (17 to be precise in Bollywood and one Sinhala movie that was a superhit in Sri Lanka in the late 50s with his music still praised and remembered there). This is something of an enigma.

From the top of my head, I could remember Rustom Sohrab and Sangdil that he had composed music for. Rustom Sohrab would be surely the most outstanding one of all his (admittedly few) movies. Although there are a number of songs in the movie which are truly memorable, I chose this one, and for a reason.

The movie Rustom Sohrab, was made by , of all the people, F U Ramsay, who achieved fame (notoriety) for his monopoly of horror movies that were quite comic. He created and ran the genre of funny horror movies, later taken over by Ram Gopal Verma. It was directed by a big name in Marathi Literature, Vishram Bedekar. The director is much more famous in Marathi as a writer and even won a Sahitya Akademi award for his autobiographical novel. His debut novel, Ranangan created a storm in Marathi circles. He also wrote plays and his Tilak Ani Agarkar about intellectual conflict between the two contemporaries also was very acclaimed. He directed quite a few movies in Marathi and Hindi.

Rustom Sohrab is an Iranian fable culled from the epic poem Shahnameh by Firdausi. The story related to a Father and Son, both great warriors who find themselves at war with one other, not knowing who the other is. Suraiya, one of my all time favourite actresses and perhaps the best singer- actress on the silver screen sadly never acted (or sung) in movies after this one. In a sense, this song is literally her swansong.

Suraiya looks absolutely bewitching in the black clinging dress and her large expressive eyes and the transparent veil add to her appeal. The sad situation of her blighted love (which was nixed by a family elder on her side) got to her, and she quit films and singing altogether after this movie and song. Sad, because she undoubtedly had oodles of talent left in her when she did quit. This is her only song in the movie where she acts the role of Shehzadi Tehmina, the romantic attraction of the portly Rustom, (Prithviraj Kapoor in a typical bombastic, rather wooden performance with his loud typical dialogue delivery more suited to the theatre where he started his career, and he resembles Shammi Kapoor so much in appearance in the movie) the fighter with a fearsome reputation across Iran. Amazingly the legend from the 10th century has a young Rustom landing in a distant Kingdom searching for his runaway horse, becomes a guest of the King, and somehow the Princess (Shehzadi) Tehmina flips for him and approaches him with the strange request (for the time and culture from which the poem/ legend emanate, for such a thing to happen in the pre-10th century Iran is amazing). She admires Rustom and knows of his reputation. She goes into his room alone at night and asks if he will give her a child and in return, she will bring his horse. Rustom leaves after he impregnates Tehmina and his horse is returned. (Imagine, all you infertologists, you guys have clearly got it wrong- like in Roop Tera Mastanafrom Aradhana, it is so easy to get pregnant with just a single encounter) Before he leaves, he gives her two tokens. If she has a girl, she is to take the jewel and plait it in the girl’s hair. If she has a boy, she is to take the seal and bind it on the boy’s arm. Nine months later, she bears his child—a son, whom she later names Sohrab. Sohrab in the movie is acted by Premnath (who is probably one of the few men of the era who could match Prithviraj for his bombastic dialogue delivery) As luck would have it ( and I have my doubts if this Firdausi bloke foresaw Hindi Movies 10 centuries ago, because the central idea of father and son not knowing one other till they meet in mortal combat, one kills the other and then recognises him only by the amulet that has been given to him at birth is kinda patented by Bollywood) Rustom meets Sohrab on the battlefield, the two wrestle each other to the bitter end, when Rustom breaks Sohrab’s back and stabs him mortally, but not before the younger man shows the amulet his unknown father has given his mother and tells him his father will come and avenge his killing. The father realises his mistake rather late and can’t do much about it at the time. Shehzadi Tehmina, enraged at the son’s death, attacks and burns Rustom’s palace and gives his riches away to all and sundry in the legend.

This endearing Suraiya song has lyrics by Qamar Jalalabadi and is central to the seduction theme. Sajjad Hussain the music director was a highly regarded music maestro, despite being cursed with a really foul temper and being a perfectionist as well as hard taskmaster, and had a profound understanding of film song lyrics, instrumentation, classical music and the voice quality of his singers. He had learned and mastered all kinds of instruments, and is said to have actually survived as a man who could play the Mandolin as no one else could in the history of Hindi Film Music and is said to have played the instrument for more than some 22000 songs for multiple composers. His music compositions rank among the most complex scores of all the composers of the era.

An amazing story about the man sums up his immense talent (sadly gone waste due to his garrulous nature). Once, very deeply impressed by Sajjad Hussain’s Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni (from Sangdil, Sajjad Hussain’s second best known film), the Ghazal King Madan Mohan created Tujhe kya sunaun mein dilruba, tere saamne mera haal hai( Aakhri Dao) on pretty much the same lines. At a concert when Madan Mohan walked past Sajjad, the miffed Sajjad acerbically taunted “Aaj kal toh parchaiyyan bhi ghoomne phirne lagi hain” . Madan Mohan to his credit responded that he could not find a better music director to copy. This reply made Sajjad Hussain speechless.

Sajjad Hussain will always remain one of the great “What If” stories in Bollywood. What if he had learnt to temper his anger? What if he had learnt to be more civil to others around him? Undoubtedly the result would have satiated us, the film music aficionados much more. As things stand listening to the small number of compositions we can get to hear always leaves a sense of wanting even more from the man. A genius, undoubtedly, sadly not expressed adequately due to his own foibles.

Have a great day ahead, folks, and enjoy the music of the man, undoubtedly one of the greats. The Bhishmapitamaha of Hindi Film Music, the great Anil Biswas once commented about him “By all standards Sajjad Hussain was an original, a genius music director, different from all others and each of his musical composition carried most difficult notations, which he himself used to create and took utmost pleasure out of it.”

Stay safe and healthy. Stay happy and away from harm’s way. Stay away from everything coming from the Chinese, today, tomorrow and forever